Home Gigs Gig Review : Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets Set the Controls Tour 2024The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham

Gig Review : Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets Set the Controls Tour 2024The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham

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Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Pink Floyds human metronome, Nick Mason brings his Saucerful of Secrets to Nottingham for night three of this, his third UK tour; aptly entitled “Set the Controls”. “Set the Control For The Heart Of The Sun” from the sophomore album ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’, released in 1968, it is the only recording that features both Syd Barrett and David Gilmore’s guitar parts.

As anyone who knows, Saucerful was created in 2018, to perform the earlier Pink Floyd numbers, namely the seven albums and singles before 1973’s monumental ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, the album that everyone has or should have in their collection.

The formative years of ‘Floyd have given us some absolute belters including the 23.5 minute long ‘Echoes’ and the singles ‘See Emily Play’, ‘Arnold Layne’, and ‘Fearless’. The legendary story telling of Syd Barrett along-side the creative genius he displayed in his musicianship, helped to cement the foundations of a band that would go on to become one of legendary status.

Saucerful of Secrets came about when ex Ian Dury and the Blockheads guitarist, Lee Harris approached his good friend, Guy Pratt, the then Floyd bassist about forming a band to play Pink Floyds early psychedelic works, music released while Syd Barrett was very much influencing the bands sound. Nick Mason was the choice as both Gilmour and Waters have their own side projects.

The three were joined by Gary Kemp, brother to Martin both from Spandau Ballet, on guitar and vocals along with Dom Beken, a friend of Rick Wright, who took up the keyboard duties. The idea was to capture the ‘Spirit’ of the music and not become another tribute band like the Australian Pink Floyd Show, nor was it to take the path of Gilmour and Waters with their solo projects. This was to be a celebration of Floyds early work and to give it the recognition it so rightly deserves, and bring it to the fans who never got to hear it played live.

The line up consists of

Nick Mason – Drums, Gong, Bell, Percussion

Guy Pratt – Vocals, Bass

Gary Kemp – Vocals, Guitars

Lee Harris – Guitars, Backing Vocals

Dom Beken – Keyboards, Synthesisers, Organ, Piano, Programming, Backing Vocals

The band played their first live performance to 500 people in a sold-out ‘test show’ at Dingwall’s in London on May 2018, there after followed three sold out shows at the Half Moon Putney. A larger, European tour followed in September of 2018 which continued with a tour of North America in 2019, famously Roger Waters joined them on stage in New York. Covid put paid to the 2020 European leg of the ‘Echoes’ tour, this being postponed until April 2022, The subsequent North American and Canada ‘Echoes’ Tour being moved from the January to the September. More European dates were added as the band hit the road again playing Germany, Poland, Czechia before a longer tour of Italy including a show in the Tetro Grande, Pompei on the 24th July 2023, before setting off to Australia to finish the ‘Echoes’ Tour. The last show being in Perth on September 25th 2023.

Ok enough background, those who are at the show will know all this and more, as the loyal fans of Pink Floyd tend to be very well read. It’s great to be able to hear some Pink Floyd music played live since the bands last tour, ‘the Division Bell’ Tour took place in 1994. After the death of Syd Barrett in 2006 and Rick Wright in 2008, Gilmour has said the band would not play again as it wouldn’t be right without Rick on the Keys; however, the band recorded and released ‘Hey Hey Rise Up’ a charity single for Ukraine with Boombox front man Andriy Khlyvnyuk on vocals, (he also sang the 2014 Ukrainian National Anthem ‘Oh The Red Viburnum In The Meadow’), in March 2022.

As the lights dim, we are in a count-down sequence being played over the house PA, the crowd are agitated in anticipation or is it that folk of a certain age are constantly restless. This being a crowd of a certain age, and having just turned a youthful 60 myself, I do feel on the younger side.

The stage backdrop is a calming scene of Mt Fuji, this is replicated on Nicks double kick drums, Japanese waves on one and Mt Fuji on the other.

The crowd erupt, cheers and applause raise the noise levels as the band, shrouded in darkness walk on. Blue neon lighting is the order of the day as they drop straight into Syd Barrett’s ‘Astronomy Domine’ the opening track from the debut album ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ from 1967. Bright strobe pulses as the song builds, a youthful Nick Mason is belting out a thunderous drum groove. There is a Gregorian like chant feeling to lyric on this one as Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt harmonise, effortlessly singing the names of the planets and some of their moons before the song goes off-Piste with Lee Harris and one of his many gold-coloured guitars rips a lick and the band take their cue and we have lift off. Pratt is wandering the stage as the guitar licks flow back and forth between kemp and Harris.

The song finishes with more of the chant like lyrics to great applause by the very knowledgeable crowd.

‘Arnold Layne’ follows on, another one written by Sid, this was released in early 1967. It’s a song about an underwear thief who stole women’s lingerie of the lines of Roger Water’s and Syd Barrett’s mums washing lines. Their mums both had students lodging with them from the local girl’s college. It’s another perfect example of Syd’s story telling. As Gary Kemp sings this one out Guy Pratt is marching about rattling the strings on his Rickenbacker Bass. On the lines “2 to know” he thrusts up the V for victory sign or is he intimating the number 2. Nick Mason Stands and speaks to the crowd, about being in Nottingham back in the 60’s, he shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix and the Nice. He asks if there’s anyone in who was at the show, of course there was!

The band continue with another from the first album, ‘See Emily Play’ this one sees Guy Pratt, his bass pointing skyward as he delivers the rumbling opening bass line. Dom Beken is swirling around on the synth in the background as the vocal is delivered with a deliberate, percussive stab. An electric harpsichord changes the dynamic before the band continues. Nick Mason is keeping great time; his percussive snaps are interspersed with a gentle cymbal crashes. He marks time with his trademark high right shoulder, watching each band member in turn through his quizzical eyes. It’s another great piece of storytelling, it’s got that 60’s timeless vibe about it.

‘Remember Me’ written in 1965, never making an album until ‘The Early Years 1965-1972’ box set was released in 2016. Nick tells us that with this one, they managed to lift Syd’s vocals from the original recordings, it now allows them to play whilst Syd actually sings the song. The track was never played live by Syd and Floyd so it’s a surreal moment. Dom treats us to Harmonica fill during it, as the back drop displays various images of Syd whilst we listen to him singing along with the band from a tape. This gets a massive nod of approval from the crowd as it finishes.

The beats build, the kick drum is pushing some air as the bass rumbles deep. Dom Beken is busy with his keys providing the swirling back ground as Gary Kemp is sliding on the neck of his 70’s Strat. Pratt is getting his steps in as he patrols the stage giving a nod or a jump here and there as visual cues to his fellow band members. The guitar riffs are crushing in their precision as we go into ‘Obscured By Clouds’ the instrumental title track from the 7th album released in June 1972. This segues into ‘When You’re In’ again from the 7th album.

‘Please don’t put your wires in my brain’ is a great line from ‘IF’ from 1970’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’, apparently the bands least favourite album, despite reaching No1 in the UK charts. After a bit of faffing around Kemp is stood behind an acoustic guitar on a stand he’s lit by several spots as he gentle delivers the lyric and strums his acoustic, Guy Pratt is highlighted in the same way on the other side of the stage. The first half of ‘IF’ is played as the song gently drifts into ‘Atom Heart Mother’ an instrumental composed of riffs, licks and grooves composed during rehearsals, featuring the chord progression that Gilmour called ‘Theme from an Imaginary Western’. The tubular bells are played by Nick on his electronic pad. The song, a shorter version than on the album, drops back into the second half of ‘IF’ to finish out. The ‘medley’ works and once again it has the crowd cheering in appreciation.

A bit of Rock and Roll follows with Guy Pratt singing ‘The Nile Song’ from the movie soundtrack ‘MORE’ from 1969. This has a very punk style of delivery, something that wouldn’t sound out of place some 10 years later. ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ from 1968’s ‘Saucerful of Secrets’, the sophomore album, completes the first set. With the rumbling gong intro building as Lee Harris on a gold Strat, eventually joins in and riffs out the songs iconic lick. Guy Pratt takes up the vocal as Nick Mason has his timpani mallets out caressing the toms providing the timing for this eccentric piece of music; this was apparently based on a drum part by the infamous Chico Hamilton.

The synths of Beken are providing the eastern delight to the number. Kemp is using either an e-bow or a straight slide as he fingers his Strat’s neck, adding more layers the eastern vibe as the song builds. The breakdown features heavy use of a VCS3 synth as Kemp shows us his mastery of getting those haunting sounds so iconic with the band, the haunting screams, and cries fly around the hall filling the soundscape and playing with your reality before dropping back into the piece. The original recording, as, said previously, is the only track that featuring the guitars of both Barrett and Gilmour, although they are somewhat buried in the mix. The crowd stand and applaud as the band exit the stage, Nick Mason takes a moment to tell everyone they have 20 minutes. There is then a massive surge as the hall empties, no doubt for a well needed visit to the rest room and merch stand.

Set 2 commences with ‘The Scarecrow’ another from the debut album of 1967. Once again Syd’s iconic story telling is obvious. Kemp and Pratt share the lyrics as Harris and Mason provide the percussive raps. Beken provides the music as the Scarecrow stands in the field where Barley grows, until Pratt gives us a dirty riff on the bass followed by Kemp providing a lead run on his Strat. Pratt once again dictates the ending of the song. ‘Fearless’ from 1971’s album, ‘Meddle’ follows on, Kemp on acoustic sings this cracking tune, as the intro is building, we have the ‘We’ll Never Walk Alone’ choir being played from a backing tape, The original being a recording of the Liverpool fans singing the Jerry & the Pacemakers hit, in the Kop at Anfield.

An Arthur C Clarke inspired song follows. ‘Childhood’s End’ from 1972’s ‘Obscured By Clouds’ continues the set. This was Gilmore’s last song composed solely by him and his last lyric until A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987. The song was later released as a single to promote ‘The early years 1965-1972’ box set. This was last played by Floyd in 1973, The Saucers resurrected the song and subsequently added it to the set. Another piece of Syd Barret Story telling follows in the form of ‘Lucifer Sam’, another from the debut album from 1967. This one tells us about a Siamese Cat. The guitar has a Duane Eddy sound to it, full of echo and sounds quite sinister. Syd’s then girlfriend, Jennifer Spires, gets a mention In the lyrics, she’s referred to as Jennifer Gentle.

A single syth ping sounds out, keyboardist, Dom Beken is pointing to three circles on the back drop. This instantly has the crowd cheering. As he tries to repeat it, something isn’t quite right and we get the help of a tech. After this false start we get the single ping strikes, this is repeated, with Dom, once again, pointing at the screen on each occasion. This is the intro to ‘Echoes’, the last song on the 1971 album ‘Meddle’, all 23.5 minutes of it

The guitars join in, Harris and Kemp have played some sublime work on a range of guitars, It’s nice to see Syd’s tunes played on a Telecaster and Gilmour’s on a Strat. The harmonised lyrics provided by Pratt and Kemp are on point, thick, rich and creamy. The song delves n and out of psychedelia inspired sounds. At one point Harris has his guitar held up in front of him as he generates some high pitch screams and howls using the guitars volume knob to create swells in the sound. Kemp on the other side of the stage is stood in front of his speaker cab, motionless.

The Keyboard swells as clouds drift over the back drop. Up front, Pratt is raising and lowering his bass as he delivers a cello like sound into the mix. The song builds again with a steady riffed guitar note repeated as Mason caresses the ride cymbal before taking a trip around the toms. Pratt is stood in front of him marking the time, bright spots flashing over Mason as he grooves along before the snare riff that brings the band back with aplomb. The duet of Harris and Kemp bring the lyric alive, as Pratt, once again is directing the pulses with little jumps and kicks. The crowd are loving it as the band bring it down with the iconic descending chord progression, the instrumental riff being identical to the main theme used years later in the musical, Phantom of the Opera from 1986.

This was the final song of the second set, so as the band wander off the stage the crowd are on their feet clapping and cheering for more, their chanting’s are soon rewarded, as the band return, smiles beaming, they take up their instruments and are into the instrumental, ‘One of These Days’, the opening track to 1971’s Meddle. Lee Harris sits at a steel guitar as Guy Pratt slams out the bass riff, the delayed quarter and eighth note triplets pulsing the opening to this poignant track. The keyboard swells and Mason’s Tom attack open the way for Harris to let rip on the lap steel, and leads in to the repetitive riffing and keyboard swirling which eventually drops into Ron Grainers Dr Who Theme Tune, before the distorted and slowed down lyrical line of ‘One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces’, is played from tape. This, apparently was a Jibe at Radio One DJ Jimmy Young who the band disliked for his nonsensical tendency to babble, is a recording of Nick Mason, not the sort of person you’d expected to deliver such a threatening line. The song speeds up into a righteous romp before finishing, once again, to huge applause.

A 12-minute part instrumental finishes the night off. The title track to the sophomore 2nd album ‘A Saucer Full Of Secrets’. This features more sound effects, feedback, percussion and wordless lyrics to keep many a Pink Floyd fand happy, and is a fitting end to the night. The song, when it appeared on the later Ummagumma, was broken down into 4 parts. As the song plays, those who know will realise that the echoing church organ, Guy Pratt’s slide bass, pt1 entitled ‘Something Else’ this is a shorter rework. Pt2, ‘Syncopated Pandemonium’ is replaced with a snare drum from ‘Up The Khyber’, from the 1969 album ’MORE’. Pt3 ‘Storm Signal’ is more floor tom and chimes which carries on throughout Pt4 ‘Celestial Voices’ which features more organ and a mellotron to help with the ethereal sounds, on top of which we have the quavering sung notes by Mr Gary Kemp, he does so with eyes closed before breaking out that Strat’s rich sound as he delivers a sublime solo to bring the song and the night to a rousing finale.

As the crowd stand and applaud, the band hand out pics to the crowd. It’s been an epic night of early Pink Floyd showing how the band developed, primarily down to the genius of Syd Barrett carving out a niche beginning for them. For that reason, ‘Remember Me’ has to be the stand out song, if, for no other reason that it was Syd singing with the band, something that myself and a lot of fans never got the chance to see.

It’s a stunning show and one that a true Pink Floyd fan should get and see. The band are tight and on point, Nick Mason belies his years, he may argue but he sounded as fresh as I’ve ever seen him, Lee Harris, the man responsible for the project is again sensational, his lap gold-coloured guitars shone throughout, I especially like the triple p90 Musicman, that sounded stunning. The keyboard Manship of Dom Beken was ridiculously good even if he did have his share of gremlins. He carried the delivered the iconic sound that helped shape the band perfectly. Guy Pratt, the only other member to actually play with Pink Floyd was having his best life, he delivered a bass line on par with anything Waters has delivered, along with being the obvious musical director, he somehow managed to keep the guys on track and finally, Gary Kemp, he was outstanding, who’d have thought you’d see a New Romantic playing Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour tunes brilliantly. It has to be up there for gig of the year. Go get a ticket, it’s a 14-date tour finishing at the Royal Albert Hall on June 29th, before heading off into Europe.

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